The Casting Dock

searching for that elusive balance

I’ve got some cognitive dissonance going on over here. If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve had it for quite some time, really.

This uncomfortable tension stems from two contradictory, yet equally coveted desires revolving around one theme: money. I dream of vacations in breathtaking locations (I think we all remember my fanciful vacation to the Italian coast…); charming houses replete with hardwood floors, exposed brick, secret passages, tree houses, and library ladders; and hosting semi-elaborate luncheons and dinner parties where all the details weave together to create a unified theme and warm ambience. Yet I also dream of giving back in big ways to people in need and to national and worldwide organizations designed to help alleviate the plight of the poor, to advance discoveries in the medical world, to educate our children and young adults to excel in this global economy. There are SO many worthy causes and profound needs.

The thing is, I know it’s a balance. Almost all of life can be well-lived by the simple principles of balance and moderation. It’s okay to enjoy life, to take vacations, to spend hard-earned money on things that matter to you. But where’s the line? How much is enough? Because I also believe we are called to help those less fortunate. Is it a percentage thing? Like, give away a certain chunk of your earnings to noble causes and enjoy the rest guilt-free? Or will taking a 10 thousand dollar vacation never be justified regardless of if you’ve already given away far more than that?

There are certain things I know about myself when it comes to money. If I ever came into millions of dollars, I would never own a massive mansion of a house; I would never buy fancy cars or spend thousands of dollars on fancy clothes or flashy jewelry. All those are “over the line” for me. The money line. I could not, in good conscience, possess any of those things knowing that there is so much need in this world (plus, I don’t have a desire to anyway, so that helps…). But when you scale the line back a bit, it gets a little bit more gray. What about a 400,ooo dollar house? It might not be a sprawling spread oceanside, but that’s still a massive chunk of money, especially globally speaking. Am I justified in spending that much money on a place to lay my head when I am aware of how far that money could go towards other, dare I say greater, causes?

Sometimes I think it’s easier now that I don’t have a ton of money. Sure, all of my immediate needs are met and I have the ability to save for things that I really want, but I’m not rolling in a ton of excess. I definitely, 100%, no doubt about it realize that it’s farrrrr easier to be on the “have money” side of life than the “don’t have money” side, but I also realize that with the blessing of money comes the responsibility to spend it and invest it wisely.

I want to navigate this balance well now, to be faithful with little so that in time, hopefully, I will prove myself faithful with a lot, for I truly believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. But I feel pulled in opposite directions, between disparate worlds and polarizing desires. I am left pondering, what’s the balance?

Any ideas, my fellow bloggers? How do you navigate it?

5 comments

1 Rhonda { 03.07.11 at 1:23 pm }

Seeing as I have no “real” money to speak of, I have not been dealt this kind of dilemma of having to choose balance with all my millions. Having said that, I still struggle with what I need to be doing in the “giving” area of life and what sacrifices should I be making to live out the examples in Scripture of helping those in need. No matter how much money one has, this struggle exists. Having been many times on the receiving end of people’s generosity, I can say that it is an amazing thing when God moves people to bless in tangible ways. My list of God’s provision through the hands of individuals is astoundingly long. I so desire to be the person who gives back and blesses people in that way. If you read books by Francis Chan or listen to any of his sermons, you might be convinced to lean more on the side of giving away a whole lot more than you ever use for your own pleasure. His stuff is very convicting. But for me, the bottom line is trusting that my relationship with God is such that He will lead me in all the ways I should go, including direction on handling whatever money, possessions or relationships He has entrusted me with.

2 Jer { 03.07.11 at 1:41 pm }

One solution is to marry someone whose annual personal purchases boil down to a few books, underwear, MLBTV, and whatever items can be covered by gift cards. Then you can appropriate his remaining funds and put them into your travel budget.

In all seriousness, this is a tough balance. I agree with you that the umbrella command is easy to discern–to whom much is given, much is required–but sketching out the details underneath is tricky. I suppose a general but helpful credo is to give until hurts, to sacrifice some kind or measure of personal want and to pour those resources into others. You should feel what you give, and whether that requires $4 or $400,000 is a matter of one’s station.

Of course, “feel” is a relative term in this instance, but that is a much longer discussion.

3 k&c's mom { 03.07.11 at 7:17 pm }

Begin by getting in the habit of giving. $20 will make a world of difference to some people. Keep your eyes and ears open for those people. What institutions do you want to give back to? Start giving them a little each month and increase it as you can. Tithe. God loves a cheerful giver and you certainly can’t outgive Him.

4 noche { 03.07.11 at 10:15 pm }

Giving can be tricky…like knowing when to give so it does not get in the way of what God may be doing in someone’s life . Being willing to listen to what God tells you to do with your (His) money and being willing to act on it even when it makes no sense is not always easy. Holding your money too close is another challenge. Remembering that it is not your money, but that you are merely the steward of what God has given you is sometimes easy to forget. Bottom line: the more you exercise the “giving” muscle, the stronger it gets.

5 Lisa { 03.08.11 at 8:23 am }

I do like that Jer–you should “give till it hurts”…it is meant to be a sacrifice. Giving a large amount when you have a massively large amount isn’t nearly as impressive as the person who gives the only $5 left in his wallet. We hear of the woman with the two coins often, but there’s such truth in it!

Rayeanne, I like SO many organizations…Compassion International (Jer, let’s sponsor a kid, eh?), St. Judes, colleges like Gordon, a variety of non-profits, etc. See, I like tithing because it’s a clear-cut 10%…but just giving feels tougher to discern…thanks for the thoughts, all!

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